After a bevy of offseason acquisitions, several NBA teams are expecting improved seasons. Some expect to be more than playoff hopefuls and open a few eyes with a deeper run than expected. Others are trying to unseat the Miami Heat. The Heat are just trying to do what they’ve done all over again.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out. Whether a franchise gets hit with the injury bug or the new roster doesn’t mesh, there always seem to be a few teams that don’t live up to the expectations they had.
Here, we predict two such teams from each conference that won’t finish the way their talent suggests.
It’s been almost a decade since the Timberwolves made the playoffs. In the last few years, they’ve started putting it together, but historically constant run-ins with the injury bug prevented them from putting it all together (Bleacher Report's own Tom Schreier explains the historical aspect).
Now, with everyone healthy (Kevin Love is expected to be back for training camp), they have the offensive firepower to shoot for the playoffs. Kevin Martin, Love and Nikola Pekovic are all proven scorers who will be fed the ball from one of the best passers in Ricky Rubio. On paper, they have a shot.
Don’t count on it.
The Timberwolves still don’t have any standout isolation defenders in the post. Nikola Pekovic is good on the pick-and-roll, but that’s half the battle. Love is in no way a reliable defender, averaging just half a block per game for his career.
And while they did address their need for outside shooting in Kevin Martin, he doesn’t come close to being a reliable perimeter defender. Signing Corey Brewer helps, but doesn’t take away the fact that whoever Martin guards will be getting on the scoreboard early and often.
Even if they stay fully healthy (an apparently tall task), they don’t have the individual or team defense to compliment their scoring studs. That means another trip to the lottery.
It really hinges on Smith. Unless Detroit has a plan to magically increase his 28.3 percent career three-point shooting, it’s confusing to see why they acquired him offensively.
Smith is at his best working in the paint, but Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond already take up enough space. Inserting Smith there would jam up the area for any of them to work.
And if the Pistons are expecting him to hit his jumpers…this should convince them otherwise. Plus, that 51.7 percent free-throw percentage last year doesn’t do him any service.
Intangible-wise, chemistry still has to happen for this team to win games. The young starting five is unaccustomed to playing on a winning team (no one has a career winning percentage) and those with playoff experience are a combined 34-51.
What Detroit has now has similar elements of the infamous summer of 2009. They are better than that, of course, but as the league learned from the Lakers last year, bringing in a bunch of talent doesn’t guarantee anything.
Like a playoff berth. That’s what Pistons fans are hoping for. Not sure it will happen.
The Heat, Pacers, Nets, Bulls and Knicks have spots locked up. It’s a tight race for the last three playoff berths and Detroit is capable of being on the outside looking in.
Despite making the conference finals for the first time in franchise history, Memphis fired head coach Lionel Hollins. If getting that far in the playoffs doesn’t keep a job, then the Grizzlies management has to be expecting NBA Finals or bust this season.
They then kept the core of that Western Conference Finals roster intact. If Memphis wants to get to the finals, or even a return trip to the final four, that will be the reason why they won’t.
The rest of the west got so much better while the Grizzlies didn’t do much. The Clippers, Rockets, Thunder and Warriors are all welcoming players that vastly improve the team, whether through offseason acquisitions or a return from injury.
Golden State has Andre Iguodala. Houston got Dwight Howard. The Thunder sees the return of Russell Westbrook. LA got the three-point shooters they needed to stretch a defense and has a defensive identity of its own in new coach Doc Rivers. The Spurs just swept the Grizz.
Memphis can finish as low as sixth in the west. Getting a low seed in this conference spells playoff doom. Even if they advance past the first round, it’s tough seeing them get through the second. Not what the Grizzlies had in mind, for sure.
Unlike Memphis’ situation, the Knicks actually did improve to an extent this offseason. Like the Grizzlies, everyone else in their conference did better.
Brooklyn has their super-lineup. The Bulls welcome back Derrick Rose. Indiana (who outplayed the Knicks in their series) got a starter talent in Luis Scola as their backup and return Danny Granger from injury. The Heat are the Heat.
The Knicks' marquee signings are Andrea Bargnani and an aging Metta World Peace. That would be called not keeping pace.
And here’s the kicker—last season, the Knicks finished last in two key statistics. Assists and points in the paint.
What does that imply? The offense lacked ball movement, often ending with a player taking their man one-on-one, then settling for jumpers. That doesn’t get you far no matter how well Melo or anyone is playing.
If you think the Knicks can rely on shooting, consider that they lost three snipers in Chris Copeland, Steve Novak and Jason Kidd. Also consider that Melo is seasonally an inconsistent from behind the arc. His last four seasons? 33.3, 42.4, 33.5 and 37.9 percent.
They will be the fifth seed. That means playing one of the aforementioned teams without home-court advantage. Doesn’t look good.